Zibechi: the Movements facing the end of the democracies


By: Raúl Zibechi

In his first article of 2016, the winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics, Paul Krugman, analyses the consequences of the domination of the oligarchy of money in his country’s political system. Under the title “Privileges, pathology and power” (The New York Times, January 1, 2016), he maintains that: “the rich are, on average, less likely to show empathy, with respect to the norms and laws, and even more likely to be unfaithful, than those who occupy the lower rungs on the economic scale.”

It’s not just about a social and cultural condition, even less about a spiritual tendency. He centres his analysis on the answer to a key question: “What happens to a nation that grants greater political power all the time to the super rich?”

The answer is decorated with examples. Half of the contributions to all candidates in the first part of the 2016 electoral campaign come from less than 200 wealthy families. Those kinds of families have children whose behaviour Krugman classifies as “spoiled egomaniacs,” whose best example is the candidate who marches at the front of the Republican gang, Donald Trump. In his opinion, he would have been “a blowhard and a bully” in any place he occupies, because “his billions permit him to evade the controls that impede the majority of people from releasing their narcissistic tendencies.”

Another example: Sheldon Adelson, is a magnate of Las Vegas games of chance, accused of links to organized crime and the business of prostitution. To block his court proceedings, he bought Nevada’s largest newspaper, displaced the print version, told the reporters to start monitoring all activity of three judges of the court in charge of his case and allegedly started to “publish negative reports about the judges.” The multi-millionaire Adelson started to play an important role inside the Republican Party from his Las Vegas bastion, which he uses as an electoral platform.

Krugman talks about an oligarchy that has taken possession of politics. It can be said that this is nothing new and that there are only a few analysts who agree with that judgment. Paul Craig Roberts, former assistant secretary of the Treasury in the Ronald Reagan government, maintains that the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 provoked an explosion of arrogance in the United States elites that carried the neo-conservatives to control of the country’s foreign and domestic policy. The repeal of internal financial regulation and the tendency to lead the world towards nuclear war at the international level are some of the most ominous consequences of this systemic turn.

For the popular movements, the problem does not consist only in establishing that up there above they have lost direction, since they don’t have either contact with society or the least bit of interest in that society’s survival. Only money interests them, the non-stop accumulation of wealth, even at the price of the destruction of life. Our problem is what to do with an electoral system that has been converted into the political system’s only public rite that really exists. Although the majorities know that the elections are rigged, that fraud is systematic (before, during and after the emission of the vote), that although they get to elect the lesser of the evils (if one exists) nothing fundamental is going to change, there are many below that still believe their best path is to improve the current situation.

I think that the recent comunicado of the EZLN, on January 1, gives us some clues about how to get out of this trap that the hegemonic political culture leads us into. The text that Subcomandante Moisés read in Oventic emphasizes that the standard of living of the Zapatista communities is far superior to what they had 22 years ago, when the open rebellion started, and better than that of the communities linked to the government. “Selling out to the bad government not only did not resolve their needs, but rather added more horrors. Where before there was hunger and poverty, now hunger and poverty continue, but there is also despair.”

While the party members have been converted “into groups of beggars that don’t work, they just wait for the next government welfare programme,” the Zapatistas are not only known for using the paliacate but because they know how to work the land and take care of their culture, because they study and they also respect women, for their dignity. The Zapatistas have “the clean and lofty view,” they consider the autonomous government as a service and govern collectively.

The Zapatistas don’t expect solutions to come from above; for 22 years, the comunicado says, “we have continued to construct another way of life” that includes self-government. I believe the key is here. Even the most renowned members of the system, like Krugman, recognize that everything is rotten up there above. We know that and it is good to remember it.

But we still lack the construction of that other way of living: being capable of governing ourselves. Above all, we still lack the belief that we are capable of doing it and, therefore, starting to do it. The new political culture won’t come from books or from declarations: it emerges from collective work with others.


Originally Published in Spanish by Desinformemonos

January 4, 2016

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee



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